“Sentimental adulation and sexual obsession have the same roots, both proceed from some degree of selflessness; it's not a domain in which you can find fulfilment without losing yourself.”Well I am completely shocked that I liked this one! Seriously, I've read a few of Houellebecq's novels before, generally mortified that someone might read over my shoulder and be offended by the graphic content,and relatively not on board, yet this one seemed to say so much more. Juxtaposing sex tourism, terrorism and the loss of joy in life and all it holds, this is very much a tale of our time.
Unlike some of his other works, where I felt, he just hated women. This one seems to give them, well Valerie specifically, more of an equal footing. Not just the source of pleasure, but a partner in exploration. So, **spoilers**, the ending was a bitter pill to swallow.
The black humour about sex tourism and the planned resorts was equally amusing and repellent, but I persevered to the conclusion. There are moments of real insight apart from the more carnally focused adventures and these are splayed against horrific violence and poverty to drive the point home about the rape and pillage of the third world.
In the age of the 'selfie', and self-obsession, the following quote seems particularly apt:
"Not only are they ashamed of their own bodies, which aren't up to porn standards, but for the same reasons they no longer feel truly attracted to the body of the other."
That is not to get on board with the notion that sex tourism is the answer, but it certainly hints at some of the messed up situations of today's crazy world. The hero's drunken notions come to fruition with disastrous results and there is a palpable sense of loss at losing something real, intimate and equal. Or, if you are of a more base inclination, this book has a lot more sex than that stupid Mr Grey book.
5 out of 5 expansive notions and expanding zippers.